NPR is reporting that Buthayna Kamel is making history. She has announced her candidacy for presidency, which is a first for women in Egypt. Kamel’s candidacy in the presidential election, which will be held later this year, is the result of the youth uprising and pro-democracy movement that ousted former President Hosni Mubarak and his ruling party.
Although many Egyptian women participated in the protests, many say they feel shut out of the new government that is emerging. They worry that unless they take bold steps, women will end up with less political clout in the new Egypt than they had under Mubarak.
Kamel, 49, is a talk-show host turned presidential candidate. She recently held a town hall gathering outside the main library in Egypt’s famous southern city of Luxor. Not long ago, a gathering for people to vent their frustrations about the government — let alone discuss Kamel’s presidential aspirations — would have been impossible.
In the past, only candidates approved by Mubarak and rubber-stamped by his Parliament could run. Egyptians were convinced that Mubarak was grooming his son, Gamal, to take over once he retired. But today, Kamel and other Egyptians are looking forward to what they hope will be a real presidential race with grassroots campaigns.
Still, the candidate says she fears that at some point, Egyptians will tell her and other women who want a say, “Thanks for working with us to overthrow the regime, but now it’s time for you to go home.”
There is cause for her concern. Participants in last month’s International Women’s Day march to Tahrir Square in Cairo were attacked by men on the street. And some activists complain that the emerging leaders in postrevolutionary Egypt are ignoring women’s issues because they associate the topic with the old regime and its Western allies.
Nonetheless, Kamel is going to give her all in making Egypt’s new democracy accessible to women. How shortsighted is it to see “women’s issues” as a “Western” concept? How typical is it for men to want women to stand with them in order to win in the battle for democracy, but stand down when it comes to reaping the benefits of the new democracy? Women like Kamel will not be intimidated while exercising the same freedoms as men is this country, and that courage is needed to move women forward in Egypt and around the globe.
Read more at NPR.